Capistrano Unified School District teachers strike to continue Friday

"We'd rather be teaching" reads the sign of Shari Suda, math department chair for Ladera Ranch School. File photo.
Marla Schevker/KPCC

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As a teacher's strike continued throughout the day, a Capistrano Unified School District spokeswoman reported huge absences at the district's six high schools during today's teachers' strike. Twenty percent of high school students showed up to school; 59 percent of middle school students didn't show. At elementary schools 52 percent of students were absent.

Updated 6:45 p.m. | Permalink

Teachers strike to continue Friday

A spokesperson with the California Teachers Association has reported that Capistrano Unified Educators Association leaders are still talking with Capistrano school district officials in a meeting that began earlier this afternoon.

A teachers' strike for Friday is still on, said Bill Guy with CTA.

Updated 5:45 p.m. | Permalink

District spokeswoman says strike affects 'everyone'

(Audio: KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez spoke with district spokeswoman about picketers' behavior.)
Fewer than half the students in the Capistrano Unified School District showed up for class today – the first and maybe only day of a teachers strike.

Teachers marched on picket lines at the entrances of each of the district’s 56 schools as parents and school buses arrived to drop off and pick up students.

School district spokeswoman Julie Hatchel says picketers were “orderly and respectful.” She says there were only a few minor incidents.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez

Updated 3:45 p.m. | Permalink

Teachers' union president speaks to hundreds of supporters

Just before 3 p.m. at Capistrano Unified headquarters, teachers' union president Vicki Soderberg spoke to a crowd of about 300 supporters.

"CUEA representatives are in there right now," she said. "What we need to find out from the school district is how serious are they about the three issues: taking the permanent cuts and making them temporary, including restoration language, and agreeing to pre-agreed contract language."

California Teachers' Association Vice President Dean Vogel told the group of parents, students, and striking teachers that he's been asked in Eureka, Oakland, and the Central Valley about Capistrano Unified's strike.

"The whole state is watching you and they're learning something," he said. "They're learning that whe teachers and communities come together as one and stand together as one, things can happen."

- Adolfo Guzman-Lopez

Update at 3:13 p.m.: | Permalink

Audio slideshow: Teachers picketing

Update at 2:07 p.m.: | Permalink

A Capistrano Unified School District spokeswoman said one in eight teachers showed up to work. The teachers union is striking over a 10 percent permanent salary cut imposed by the school board to close a looming budget deficit.

- Adolfo Guzman-Lopez

Updateat 12:00 p.m. | Permalink


(Audio: KPCC's Adolfo Guzman Lopez spoke to a parent of two students at Ladera Ranch Elementary School.)

Parent Lori Newman brought a box of donuts to support striking teachers. She said they're asking for the school board to negotiate in good faith. "No sham negotiations, cloaked in ambiguities."

She said that there are other proposals on the table that the school board has failed to look into. Teachers on the picket line are blocking substitute teachers from getting into the school. Teachers plan to continue protesting through the afternoon.

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KPCC's Nick Roman found at least four dozen picketers at Dana Hills High School. The parking lot, instead of being full, is only a third full today.

KPCC's Shirley Jahad, at Capistrano Valley High School, spoke with students supporting teachers. One student said that they're trying to get the board's attention. She said that one teacher was e-mailing students to make sure they had AP test materials, even though they couldn't be there to teach kids.

Students are going to be learning things like how to balance their checkbooks in class today, due to the absence of their regular teachers.

Update at 9:01 a.m.: | Permalink

The teachers union says that talks are going to happen at 2 p.m., not 10 a.m. as they had previously said.

Update at 8:40 a.m.: | Permalink


(Audio: KPCC’s Steve Julian talks to Shirley Jahad, who’s at Capistrano High School. She talks to a student there who weighs in on the teacher strike.)

From KPCC's Shirley Jahad at Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo:

Today is a shortened school day. At Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo, some students are inside, but many didn't show up today.

Students began the day in a gym before being assigned to classrooms. According to KPCC's Shirley Jahad, students said things like "This is BS, I don't want to be stuck in a room staring at the wall all day."

AP prep was supposed to begin soon, but the strike may affect that. One student said that while she's a senior, she's considered for how it will affect people like her brother, who's a freshman.

Update at 8:09 a.m.: | Permalink


(Audio: KPCC’s Steve Julian talks to Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, reporting from Ladera Ranch Elementary School in South Orange County. He tells us what parents are saying about the strike.)

Teachers in picket lines are blocking some of the substitute teachers attempting to enter Ladera Ranch Elementary and Middle School in South Orange County.

Teachers plan to be out on the picket lines through the afternoon as negotiators try to work things out.

Teachers union organizers said that, at the end of the day today, they'll poll their teachers to see how many support going on strike a second day. However, it really depends on what happens at the negotiation table. The issue is whether the 10 percent paycut is temporary and expires at the end of the next school year, or if it's permanent, as administrators want.

One parent told KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez that she's supporting the teachers because the board isn't supporting them.

Update at 7:57 a.m.: | Permalink


(Audio: KPCC's Steve Julian talks to Shirley Jahad. She talks to a teacher on the picket line at Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo.)

Protesters at Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo chanted "recall the board." An English teacher at the school said "we are willing to work with the board; they are not willing to work with us."

She talked about the 10 percent paycut, saying that it should not be permanent. "It should not make it so that we can't afford to teach. I don't want to have to have a second job."

The teacher added, "I don't have much money. I don't know how I'm going to get through this month," but said that substitute teachers weren't looking at the big picture and that these cuts would ultimately make it so they couldn't keep this job.

There are over 50,000 students at more than 50 schools in Capistrano Unified.

Update at 7:50 a.m.: | Permalink

There was tension between substitute teachers and teachers on the picket line as the substitutes attempted to enter the school.

Teachers are expected to meet with the school board at 10 a.m.

Capistrano Unified is the second largest school district in Orange County.

Update at 7:25 a.m.: | Permalink


(Audio: KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez reports from the Ladera Ranch Elementary and Middle School in South Orange County.)

For nearly a year, there's been an acrimonious back and forth between the teachers union and administrators over budget cuts.

At Ladera Ranch Elementary and Middle School, there were about a dozen teachers so far earlier this morning out of 32 teachers. It's an elementary school with about 900 students.

One teacher who'd been teaching in Capistrano Unified for 25 years said that she's striking because they've agreed to take a 10 percent paycut, but they want language included that this will be a temporary paycut and that their pay will be restored if the district receives unexpected funds over the next year. This teacher held a sign that said "We (heart) kids, not strikes."

The teachers union has agreed to return to the bargaining table, but administrators want to do it another way because they say that negotiations have not been productive in the last year or so that the two sides have gathered. There is the possibility that this will be a one day strike.

Update at 5:50 a.m.: | Permalink

As Capistrano Unified School District teachers begin their strike and walk picket lines at all of the district's 56 schools Thursday, their union leaders will try to meet with school officials to see if negotiations can resume.

District officials said today they welcome new talks with union leaders, but not if they're going to insist on preconditions, spokeswoman Julie Hatchel said.

"The district is willing to negotiate in good faith, but at this point accepting preconditions to negotiations is not an option," Hatchel said.

Officials with the Capistrano Unified Education Association, which represents the district's 2,200 teachers, recently said they will accept the district's 10.1 percent pay cuts, but only if they expire June 30, 2011. School board members last month cut off negotiations and implemented the salary cuts.

Union President Vicki Soderberg said school officials are just offering "ambiguous" proposals and don't appear to be serious about new negotiations.

"We are committed to talk to the district Thursday morning, asking them to clarify if they are breaking the impasse by actually being willing to bargain with us in good faith – with the proposals we sent them Monday as the basis for negotiations," Soderberg said.

"It is vital that we get the district's assurances that they are willing to make their permanent cuts temporary."

Union leaders also want assurances that if the district finds an unexpected windfall of money it will restore salaries to their previous level, Soderberg said.

"Formal negotiations regarding specifics occur at the table, which is a formal process," Hatchel said. "It does not occur in public."

Bill Guy, spokesman for the California Teachers Association which the local union belongs to, said it is unclear what time union leaders will try to meet with school officials Thursday.

"We're going to show up. Now, whether they invite us in and have a discussion, you need to ask them," Guy said. "Our intention is to show up and see if they're really willing to bargain. If they are, we'll bargain. If not, we'll walk away."

The teachers could receive some moral support from parents.

Shelly Ehler, a substitute teacher who does not belong to the union but has two sons, one in second grade at Oso Grande and another in pre-kindergarten at Carl Hankey Elementary, plans to hold her children out of school Thursday in solidarity with the teachers.

An April 13 sickout led by parents sympathizing with teachers led to 9,176 students skipping school.

"I'm not sending my kids to school. I'm keeping them home and that's the best thing to do," Ehler said. "The kids won't be in normal classrooms anyway. They'll be in combined classrooms. They're going to make the best of it, but I hope they can resolve things so we can go back Friday... All of my friends are keeping their kids home as well."

School district officials provided few details how they plan to staff classrooms with substitute teachers Thursday.

"We have heard rumors this may happen for months so the district has prepared contingency plans," Hatchel said.

Hatchel acknowledged that there may be combined classrooms for some grades. Hatchel would not say how many substitute teachers officials think will cross picket lines.

"It's important to encourage parents the schools will still be open," Hatchel said.

School officials will shut down classes if there is an issue of safety, according to Hatchel.

"Student safety is our first and foremost priority," she said.

The most recent reduction of teachers' salaries and benefits will save the district about $19.9 million, but the district still needs to close a $34 million budget gap.

School board President Anna Bryson pointed out last week that school administrators took a 10 percent pay cut last year, but because that affects only about 150 people, district leaders needed to find savings from teachers' salaries.

Reduced revenue from the state and poor financial planning left the school board with little choice, Bryson said.

School officials are confident they can keep classes going during a strike, according to Bryson.

This story includes information from KPCC wire services.